Friday Question of the Day – What’s a Livable Salary for a Single Person in the District these Days?


This week’s question comes straight from the forum:

“With the rising living costs in the District, I’m curious what people would consider a “livable” salary in DC. Obviously many factors play into this, but let’s say for a single person.”

Like the OP says “many factors play into this” – so let’s say rent for a small 1 bed/studio or even a group house, student loans, plus drinks and/or dinner a couple nights a week/month, an occasional concert, movie etc. plus all the other regular sundries. What does that come out to for a yearly salary?

What makes up your definition of “livable”?

348 Comment

  • brookland_rez


    • +1. And this is the bottom end. You’re not going to be able to enjoy the amenities of city life in present day DC if you make much less than this. I was making $60k ten years ago in DC and was still living paycheck to paycheck.

      • I make 60k now and I am definitely not living paycheck to paycheck. It’s all relative. I don’t have student loans, I live in a cheaper neighborhood, etc.

      • making not much more than $60k, saving 20% in 401k, and paying $600/month to loans. Still have savings.

      • When I moved to D.C. in 2002, I was living on $38K/year and doing fine. I had no student loans and no car payment. I bought a one-bedroom condo and had a mortgage of $850 plus condo fees of about $100. I wasn’t dining out all the time, but I was doing all right.
        When I started working for the federal government three years later as a GS-11 and making $54K, it meant I could dine out more often and take more expensive vacations. As my salary has increased, my tastes haven’t changed all that much, so I’ve accumulated significant savings.

        • Meant to mention that I was definitely not living paycheck to paycheck even at $38K.

        • Yeah if those numbers still held true for the mortgage and condo fees I could see that working…but I don’t know where you could find a one bedroom condo in DC now for a mortgage payment of $850 with $100 dues now.

          • Yeah… although interest rates were higher then (around 7%), prices were substantially lower. (My purchase price was $160K.) I think now a comparable one-bedroom would be around $250K-$300K.

    • I think it is all relative. I also moved to DC in 2003 and made $40K. Rented a studio in an older building and lived by myself. I always brought lunch to work and cooked dinner at home most of the time. Didn’t drive anywhere although I did have a car in the city. Saved money where I could and was able to still have a great social life.

      A quick search online shows the value of $40K in 2003 is about $52K.

  • I would say $75k at a bare minimum. I’m at $100k and feel very secure but by no means rolling in the dough.

    • I think we have to be clear here about what is ‘comfortable.’ It all depends on individual tastes/needs. I am in the $100K range, put 17% in my 401K and feel totally unrestricted in what I want to do. That said, I don’t have loans or have expensive taste. Think back to college, people, when you had to survive on Milwaukee’s Best! With age and higher salaries, I totally get that our perspective becomes distorted.

  • i was very comfortable at $60k and managed to save a fair amount too. Lived in a nice 1br, spent maybe $50/wk on groceries and paid for cable, Internet, cell phone, etc., by myself. Minimal loan payments (and i know this is a big factor for some) and I had no transportation costs as I didn’t own a car and was a fed so had metro covered. Regular clothes shopping and some other expenses included, though I didn’t travel much during those years (but I could have) in an effort to save a down payment for a condo.

  • Not too long ago I made around 55k/yr. my share of rent was 1000. I spent frugally, trying to keep going out/eating out/groceries to under 900/month. My combined long-term and short-term savings was usually in the neighborhood of 800-1100 per month. After big purchases, emergencies, clothing, Christmas, I usually was able to save 6-7k, maybe a bit more a year. It was liveable, but I wouldn’t have accumulated much wealth outside of my 401k over the long-term. But it certainly was liveable. I could have lived on less. But liveable and upwardly mobile through wealth accumulation? I would have needed to make at least 20-30% more and obviously even more would have been better.

    • Respectfully, there’s a huge difference between “livable” and wealth building. Most of the late 20s professionals I know are barely able to make their employer’s retirement fund match and are able to save $2k max annually. Everything else covers monthly expenses. It’s the sad reality of the new, overeducated lower-middle class.

      • Respectfully, I’m pretty sure I made that point.

        • Not antagonizing. My point is just that in the context of the discussion, wealth building doesn’t even enter the equation. Even the most financially literate and frugal can only manage meager savings. Everyone else is just worried about breaking even and avoiding the unplanned expenses.

          • Everyone has their priorities and even someone making $40-50,000 can and should save something every month. If $900/month in eating out is more important than saving, then there’s a problem. Agree with OP’s definition of livable but think it definitely should include the ability to save.

          • 45k a year, 4 Roommates with $850 rent, $200/month student loans (paying graduated on -30k of my -130k), $400/month ALL food and bev, $2000 savings a year, 7%/month 401K with a tiny match, full benefits.

      • Re: “overeducated lower-middle class”. You live in a city with an over-inflated real-estate market that has the highest concentration of advanced degrees in the country. Your degree isn’t worth as much because there are scores of others just like you vying for the same job. Consider moving somewhere cheaper where your degree will be worth more . Take for instance Raleigh NC, where on average, salaries are only 10% less than DC while having a cost of living that’s 40% less. Source:

        • I went from Raleigh to DC back to Raleigh: came into DC with a very low salary, left DC with a bare-min DC salary ($60000), came back to Raleigh and scored a solid DC salary ($70000+). Now back in the Raleigh job market, just like before I left, no one is paying close to that amount – very low ball salaries. Also, this area has 3 major universities and many other colleges in the area so there is lots of competition from new entry level grads who will take free beer and fun and games at work over a decent salary. Cost of living, while less than DC, is still not great for what most people make in the area. Rents are relatively high (close to DC prices for the newer/urban places) and first time home prices are mid $200s+ for a very basic/no frills place in a sketchy ‘hood.

          • ETA: long commutes and almost no public transit is now the de rigueur of living in the Triangle/RTP/Raleigh area.

          • Depends where you live and what your needs are. I think if you want a reasonable mortgage payment and the ability to save, you need to come her with some cash and limited debt–you probably need an income close to 100K. If you’re renting, sharing a place, etc., you can do well for less but you need to be cautious in order to save money. Even in the 90s, I was able to buy in a nice building in DC only because of a modest inheritance and low grad school debt, as well as a very decent 401k to limit my savings burden. Also, it was a coop which meant the selling price was low relative to the amenities and it was an old building with steam heat which meant low utility bills.

            If you skip the trendy overpriced mediocre restaurants (which are a plague and have been for a long time), don’t need a car and know how to budget carefully, this is not much more than a lot of cheaper cities. When I move back, I came from Atlanta–some things were less: utilities, property tax, car insurance; some things were more: housing, food (probably 5-10% higher shelf prices). Once I sold the car, my cost of living was similar to Atlanta and the quality of life was much better—I didn’t have to drive to commute, more cultural options and easier to go some place different w/o a car or flight.

          • A sketchy hood in Raleigh is what, a meth lab ten blocks from your house? Raleigh isn’t exactly Bedstuy in the 80s.

        • I went from Raleigh to DC back to Raleigh: came into DC with a very low salary, left DC with a bare-min DC salary ($60000), came back to Raleigh and scored a solid DC salary ($70000+). Now back in the Raleigh job market, just like before I left, no one is paying close to that amount – very low ball salaries. Also, this area has 3 major universities and many other colleges in the area so there is lots of competition from new entry level grads who will take free beer and fun and games at work over a decent salary. Cost of living, while less than DC, is still not great for what most people make in the area. Rents are relatively high (close to DC prices for the newer/urban places) and first time home prices are mid $200s+ for a very basic/no frills place in a sketchy ‘hood. Also, long commutes and almost no public transit is now the de rigueur of living in the Triangle/RTP/Raleigh area.

      • I’d disagree, partially. If you’re not saving enough to amass a 6 month emergency fund over a year or two, I don’t think it’s livable. Long-term, something will happen, and that should be included in the “average-year” budget.

        • LOL @ six month emergency fund.

          If your emergency lasts that long, you need to move back in with your parents.

    • Did you have debt though? I feel like I would have definitely been able to save like that were it not for car payments/insurance and loans.

    • burritosinstereo

      Jeez, do you not have student loans? When I was making 65k/year and was paying $1100 in rent, after bills – including student loans – I barely could save much at all.

      • Your take home pay for $65k should be around $42k/year (fed, DC, SS, Medicare taxes included). This works out to $3500k a month.

        You are paying less than a third of your after tax income on rent, bills and student loans (you can deduct the interest on this and slightly reduce your tax burden).

        There is still $2400 left in the pot that can’t be saved. I would recommend working up a budget to find out where this money is going.

        • I’m pretty sure that burritosinstereo meant that their rent was $1100/month, and then after that they had bills and student loans on top of it and that left them with not being able to save much at all.

  • my first job here paid $45k, and while I lucked out on my centrally located below market apt rental, that still would have covered me for rent in a further-out group house, plus $400+ student loans, plus food/metro/insurance/recreation/401k contribs.

  • A young single person can still live comfortably in this city on $40k. Not that long ago I started my career in this city for quite a bit less. Yes, you have to live with roommates. Yes, you have to use the bus. No, you can’t take Uber SUV to eat at Minibar. Living in your own 1-br apartment at 14th and U with a terrace and eating dinner every night at Kapnos, or wherever, is an *incredible* luxury, not a human right.

    I will say it’s socially easier at age 25 when you don’t feel any stigma about roommates. But even as you get older, having roommates is one of the smartest financial decisions you can make.

    • LIAR.

      I make $50k and it is MISERABLE.

      All economic advice says that rent should be 1/3 of your income and mine is half. And I don’t live in a trendy neighborhood *yet* (Brightwood) but God forbid when it gets there.

      I see joggers as the harbingers of that day.

      • That means you’re spending 1500-2000 per month on rent. Are you living alone? That seems very high for brightwood. Are roommates not an option? I know someone who had some health issues, so living alone for a year while struggling made sense, but short of that, I don’t get it. You could spend half that to live in an apt in a more accessible neighborhood.

        • Seriously. I got by on $45k a year and even managed to save a little, but I paid $700 to live in a group house.

          • Ok well paying $700 to live in a group house isn’t a really a possibility anymore.

          • Totally not true. I see group houses in this range in Brookland at least weekly, and its profile has been rising for the last few years so there are definitely cheaper ‘hoods out there. Brentwood, Edgewood, Woodridge, and some of the areas around Fort Totten come readily to mind.

        • I’m guessing s/he means 50% of his/her gross income, so rent would be $1300-1400/month.

      • That, to me, is the reason that the “comfortable” salary would need to be so high. It’s not necessarily that people have such expensive taste or need to keep up with the Joneses-though that is part of it. But the bigger factor is that most of the people I know are spending half of their take home pay on rent. Maybe it’s different for people in higher tax brackets, but The Rent is Too Darn High for most people I know.

        • But that’s a choice. You could get a roommate (I’m assuming both that np lives alone and could get a roommate). Even with a large dog and only 3 weeks to find a place, I got my own 2bed/1ba with a roommate and pay around 1k/month for everything in the apt except food. I’m centrally located with free on street parking.
          I know others with pets in a similar payment structure, so I’m sure single, no pet people have options.
          I think you are keeping up with the joneses if you’re paying half your income to either live alone or in a trendy neighborhood (assuming living further out wouldn’t cost the same w/ increased transportation costs).

          • That’s my point, it’s NOT a choice. Most working-to-middle-class people I know are in the same boat. As to your assumptions, I already have a roommate, as do many of my friends. Roommate rents are really not the money-savers that they used to be. And we’ve already discussed the long odds of getting into one of those group houses with 5 other people and super cheap rent. If you have the connections, you can get that, otherwise it’s on to plan B.

            And while you may see living close-in as a luxury, to those of us without cars, it is less a want and more of a need. I’ve lived off-metro and it saved me maybe a few hundred per month-which I then spent on Metro and bus fare. I also paid through the lost sleep and stress of having to spend hours commuting. If the point is to live comfortably, then I don’t see why those factors are less valid than any other. The rent is high all over the metro area, so you might as well get what you want out of your housing. That doesn’t mean a penthouse on 14th street or a mansion in Georgetown. It means a comfortable place in an area you want to live in, with a commute that you can live with.

          • I specifically differentiated btwn true lap of luxury living and ppl who would pay the same if they lived further out due to extra transportation costs, so yea, that’s perfectly valid and noted.
            My comment was directed at np and ppl like them who (I assume) choose to live alone/lap of luxury while struggling financially. I’ve seen shares in DuPont for 1600-1800…those ppl.
            I actually saved money moving closer in addition to the time savings.
            We’re basically saying the same thing even if we disagree on what it takes to be comfortable.

    • Irony: getting scoffed at by a friend-of-a-friend when I told her I rent and live with roommates (I’m early 30s, make low 6 figures). Of course, she bragged “Well, I just bought my first place on 16th Street.” Friend notified me that she’s 28 and her parents actually bought it, but put the title in her name.
      That’s how a “young professional lives comfortably in DC”!

      • there’s really no amount of money where you won’t encounter miserable people who try to make you feel poor in order to help themselves sleep at night. And there’s no amount of money where marketers won’t try to convince you that you need to be spending more money on X to really be living. When it comes to feeling financially satisfied, ignoring both groups of people is far more important than money.

      • Life is always more comfortable when people give you money. Don’t compare yourself to these people. Vote to raise the capital gains rate, inheritance tax, etc. and maybe we can level the playing field.

      • +1. You hit the nail on the head. There is an underground economy in DC and it is called parental support. It creates lots of economic distortions. Always frustrated me when I was house shopping for a 1 BR condo and the open houses were full of very young professionals…and their parents.

        • Yup. And it’s conspicuously obvious that those folks are missing from this thread.

          • I’m one of those folks who was fortunate enough to have parental help (paid for my entire expensive college education, helped me with down payment for my first house, SO’s parents lent us money for down payment for second house till we could sell first house and pay them back).
            I didn’t feel the need to come on here and say “well I have xyz and I only make xx amount” because I recognize that I’m in a place of extreme privilege to have a family who could give me a leg up. Both SO and I make decent money, but I highly doubt we’d have our $600K house without the help both my parents and her parents were able to provide.

        • OK, but to be fair there are a good number of us who are young professionals who purchased first places without parental help. Sometimes the comments here lump all homeowners under 30 together and assume we are all getting allowances from our parents. I definitely have friends who were lucky enough to have that support. But not everyone. My mom looked at a few places with me to help me make my decision, but she definitely wasn’t the one paying.

          • This exactly…while I think that there definitely some that get parental support like that.

            My dad came with me to all the open houses I went to so he could give me his opinion on the condition of the house, things to fix, costs, etc. My parents were not the ones footing the bill.

          • Yes, but parents paying for college, creating graduates with no debt, is also a form of parental support. After all, you are an adult legally at 18, and in most states your parents have no legal obligation to pay for college or support you at all after that point, absent an enforceable divorce decree requiring parent support for college costs. So, yeah, a lot of people who say they didn’t have parental support as an adult really did, and the effect goes on for decades in the lack of student loan debt to pay.

          • @dcres, definitely not disputing that point. I was lucky to have college paid for by my parents (I was on my own for grad school and did take out loans). No doubt that and myriad other things they have done for me throughout my life have given me some advantage over those without parental support. And to be clear, I’m not claiming any moral superiority over anyone who had more or less support. I’m just saying that the idea that it is impossible to buy a place as a young professional without your parents making the down payment is not accurate, and it is not reasonable to assume that all homeshoppers with parents in tow are receiving that kind of support.

          • Eleven, you’re a part of the parental help folks. While they didn’t give you a down payment, they paid for college which allowed you to save money toward a down payment.
            Your original point is valid as I’m someone who did the home buying, college, and grad school on my own; but trying to distance yourself from ppl who received parental assistance is a little disingenuous. I’m sure your college costs could easily have been a down payment instead, and them paying for college as lowered your debt to income to make you a more viable purchaser.

          • @anonspock, pretty sure there is no category of “parental help folks.” Yours is a line of reasoning that will never end. Did your parents read to you? Live in a good school district? Feed you nutritious food? We all have varying levels of support from our parents. I know people that don’t work at all and live off their parents’ wealth. I know people who, like you, paid for college and all living expenses since then. I’m sure some people on this thread received even less from their parents. I am not interested in judging or one-upping anyone based on how much or how little their parent’s have provided for them. My comment was about the very specific observation made by some on this blog that parents must be outright buying or significantly and specifically contributing to the purchase of young professionals’ first homes, as evidenced by the parents accompanying their children to open houses. I just think that is a false assumption.

          • I bought my place on my own in my late twenties, but used an inheritance from a grandmother as the down payment. On the other hand, I could have done a 3% down FHA and still been able to afford the house. On the other-other hand, I couldn’t afford buy the same house at today’s prices, and its only a few years later.

          • @eleven My answer to those 3 queries is no across the board. I started reading before prek on my own, and my schools sucked. My diet was ok, but most things I’d never touch again for my health. I’m lucky that I’m smart and savvy.
            Yes parental help folks are, imo, those who received more than basics after adulthood primarily financially, but I’d think allowing your kid to move back home for home buying or grad school would qualify too. I don’t think simply putting your child in the best school possible qualifies.
            Whether your parents actively helped you buy a home or passively assisted by putting money elsewhere, I’d think they’re different sides of the same coin. Since we’re being so specific, then you’re correct, the assumption that your parents paid for your home simply because they were at the open house is incorrect since they only paid for school.

          • You might see them as “different sides of the same coin,” but I think Eleven is drawing a distinction between parental financial support for college and parental financial support for a down payment because most parents hope to pay (at least partially) for their children’s undergraduate education (even if those children are technically “adults” at age 18).

      • Bingo-Bango- How are all of these kids that work on the hill buying places…and then investment properties…oooooh right.

    • Disagree to an extent. Having roommates is a lot easier if you have connections with many people of a similar age. We’ve already discussed on PoPville that actually getting a room in a group house through craigslist/etc. is like winning the lottery. Even if you know a lot of people, it’s not that easy to find someone you know to move in with. Also, this would be a semi-livable salary if the young single person didn’t have additional tuition/student loans to pay.

      • Maybe if you’re anti-social. I’ve found both my places through Craigslist and found all of my roommates through Craigslist as well (probably about 10 total over the years). I’d actually live with someone from Craigslist than a friend. A friend won’t necessarily make a good roommate.

        • What does anti-social have to do with anything? I’m perfectly social, but when you’re competing with several other candidates at these “interview”-style room showings there’s always a good chance you won’t be chosen. Not my fault! I’m still emailing and asking around constantly.

          • +1
            I agree with you here. And the number of group homes is dwindling quickly, as many have been chopped up into 2 or 3 unit condos. There’s a ton of competition for a decreasing number of spots. It has nothing to do with being social; it has everything to do with connections. If you’re moving to DC from elsewhere (i.e., don’t have a strong social network here – yet), your chances of finding a spot in an affordable group house are nil.

          • You have a very specific location requirement and rightfully so, but it will certainly make the search harder with less options. I don’t think your experience is necessarily representative considering your situation is so unique (school & work on opposite ends of town).

          • HaileUnlikely

            There are decent group houses (decent house, normal people who aren’t crazy) where a room will sit empty for a month and they’ll take anybody with a pulse and a paycheck.

          • That is true, Anon Spok. Valid point.

          • Yeah I’ve been looking for a new group house on Craigslist for the past few months and I just don’t understand how people make their choices after spending 5 minutes max with 20+ people at an open house. Everyone just ends up saying the same shit about themselves and what they like to do with their free time, so I don’t really understand the process. I consider myself a normal/friendly person and idk, is there some sort of magical thing you’re supposed to say to get the attention of potential housemates?

      • I made the mistake of doing my first D.C. house-hunting tour back in July 2012. Not only was dead hot outside, but I was competing with Jack and Jill College Kids who were touring row houses and flats with their parents. One house I went to in the Petworth area was nothing to write home about, just a basic row house with three roommates, and yet it had some 20-odd people show up to its open house. I found out later that some American U student got the room when her mom cut the deposit check right there in the kitchen, same day.

    • I agree – sharing with roommates is a very smart decision financially. There should be no stigma there – just because you can live beyond your means does not mean you should! Lot of young professionals tend to rent a place on their own, even though they can barely afford it – and it takes up a massive chunk out of their paycheck every month, leaving no room for any real savings, for an emergency or down payment in the future.

      I lived in group houses for at least the first 5-6 years out of college back in the day. Nowadays i own my own home and rent another house out in dc – and most of the young people renting that house as roommates are almost always people moving out of their own studios or apartments into a shared situation because its so much more economical (and can be a lot more fun too).

  • It depends so much on the student loan burden. If there’s no student debt and no need for a car, it can be done for uncomfortably for $40k. Start adding loans or significant transit costs to the mix and it’s probably upper 40s-low 50s.

    • +1
      Student loan burden (or lack thereof) is everything.

    • This is about right. At $40k plan to have a roommate and take public transit. Minimum to rent your own place and get a car, bump up to about $60k. Living comfortable does not include giving your hard earned money to a celebrity chef that is paying a cook way less than what we here call a livable wage to prepare you a small plate.

    • Agreed. I make around $40k and while I would of course love more for my expensive taste; it is manageable. I live in a studio, don’t have a car, bring my lunch almost every day, eat out once or twice a week and am not a big drinker. I like shopping and travel so that’s where my extra money goes. That said, I would have a significantly higher quality of life (assuming money is the main factor for that sort of thing) if I were in the 60k range. I’d be able to pay down my loans at a faster rate (currently on income based repayment), put more in savings to feel secure, and maybe even afford a dog!

      • And to add; it depends on your circle, too. My friends are much more professional-world than I am (service industry) and therefore have a lot more disposable income. Sometimes it sucks to be the “poor” friend, but they’re about 5 years older and I hope, my time will come 🙂

  • I used to live pretty comfortably at $34k about 8 yrs ago. Although some of the earlier commentators clearly have a different definition of “comfortable”. I was not spending $900 a month on food/ going out.

  • I own a house and get by just fine on 81k a year. Bought my house 5 years ago.

  • I live on ~45k right now in a close-in neighborhood, though I make quite a bit more than that. If it were just me, and I had to live on less, I’m sure that I could very comfortably do so. I can easily cut ~5k off the top of my head right now, though it would probably start cutting into my social life.

  • In order to live a decently comfortable middle-class life in DC by yourself (e.g. a 1BR in an OK neighborhood, $300K in Petworth), I’d say you need to be making around $90 to 100K. That’s taking into account a couple hundred bucks per month in student loans (probably on the low side for many DC professionals), assuming a 5% downpayment and paying PMI, putting 10% of salary into retirement, Metro commuting, health care costs, and saving a few hundred per month in emergency funds.
    And really, that’s the bare minimum of what you should be doing if you want to retire on time and not be totally house-poor.

    • 5% down payments are too risky for a comfortable middle class life. If prices contract by 10% you are underwater.

      • Can you explain that a bit for me? I understand that under your scenario that the value of your home is less than your mortgage, but that doesn’t necessarily make you insolvent. Is that what you meant by underwater? Tough situation, sure – but not necessarily a problem in the long run. Even after the housing bubble burst, homes have recovered their value and then some.

        • Agreed, don’t see how putting down 5% is risky UNLESS you only plan on staying there 2-3 years. If it’s a home you can live in forever then you’d be fine if you end up underwater after 3 years because you’d recover later on. Also, depends on how much you bought the place for to begin with.

        • If you are underwater you are stuck in place until prices recover. If you have to move for a job, then you either take a loss or hope you can rent it out to cover your costs. It is not the end of the world, but I wouldn’t consider it a comfortable risk.

        • From what I understand, if the home value goes down and you have little equity, your PMI can skyrocket. And if you’re not making enough to cover the higher PMI, you’re screwed. That’s what happened to my buddy’s MIL – she bought a 3 unit building in the ‘burbs right before the collapse, had only 10% downpayment, but when prices collapsed her PMI shot through the roof. My friend and his wife had to take over the mortgage so the MIL wouldn’t lose the property.

        • I’m curious, too. Is PMI increase the only risk with a low downpayment? What would the other risks be? (I purchased recently with a low downpayment)

          • Some (most?) folks who choose the low down payment option do so because they do not have a lot saved up. As such, they are at a higher risk in case they need to pay for significant unexpected repairs which they may or may not be able to cover. They may not have as much of a rainy-day fund in case they get laid off, have a medical emergency, etc.

    • I bought a $300K condo in Petworth with 20% down (all my own savings) having never made over $55K. This just goes to show that comfort is in the eye of the beholder. I feel positively upper class now as a single person earning $75K, setting aside more than 20% of my income for retirement and having plenty left over for little luxuries. I would agree with the poster above, however, that student debt is a critical element; I was fortunate to have only minimal loans of $13K that I was able to pay off quickly.

      • You happened to have $60K in cash laying around while always making less than $55K? How did you save up that much money? Inheritance? I’m not being snarky, but that just seems like an absurd amount to save while barely making enough to cover the most basic costs in one of the most expensive cities in America. The math ain’t adding up.

        • I was making ~50k when I first arrived in DC and managed to contribute 10% to my 401k and save about 10k annually. I rented in a group house and group apt in two different locations and never paid more than $1,000/mo for rent/utilities. Assuming the person above was here for a few years, it is entirely feasible to have had 60k+ in 3-5 years with a good emergency fund on the side.

        • The key here is age. I worked for 15 years before I could afford a place, so yes, I did have the $70K (down payment plus closing costs) saved plus extra for furniture. It started with putting a few thousand $$ into CDs that a few years ago had decent interest rates. I have no inheritance, and come from very little, so have always known how to save. I lived with roommates during most of that time, which was a huge help.

        • Can’t speak for above buyer but I got my first job in DC at $28k and started saving $100 a week with my first paycheck. It was tight but this was 2005. (I definitely think $28k would be a difficult squeeze now.) I got a raise to a little under $40k after a year, and rather than pocket all that extra money I started saving $200 a week and stayed in a grouphouse. I eventually got a raise to $50,000 and started saving $300 a week. I just kept it up and 7 years later I had a little over $80,000 in cash. Comfortably made 10% downpayment at age 29 with entirely my own funds. It’s all about getting the big decisions right 1) put together a good roommate situation. I went through 2.5 years with nearly a dozen roommates in big group houses until I found the group that worked. Very deliberately looked for that good group and we stayed together for 6 years. 2) Don’t get caught up trying to impress people at Vida, U Street bars, driving a car, and Brooks Brothers. Rock Creek Park is free. Millie & Al’s and the metro are cheap. Only dooshes care if your suits are from Men’s Warehouse.

      • brookland_rez

        I make $85k/year. I’ve been in DC since 2004. I rented for my first five years. I thought I would never be able to afford to buy a place. I have a stable Federal government job. When the financial crisis hit, prices on houses dipped quite a bit, especially in up and coming neighborhoods. I bought a rowhouse in Brookland in 2009 for $239k. It was foreclosed and listed at $250k, but I talked the bank down (and got them to make repairs). Over the years I’ve fixed it up and turned it into a nice place. Even though I don’t have to, I rent out the two extra bedrooms and that mostly cover my entire mortgage, taxes and insurance. I have plenty of spending money to go out and do pretty much whatever I want.

    • Good point, even though the question specified renting. I’m sure all the 20-something real-estate tycoons will come out of the woodwork, but even well into my 30s the idea of buying a home was completely alien and terrifying, even pre-crash. I’m sure I’m not alone.

      • I still find buying a home terrifying! And I’m 33. Not sure when the “growing up” thing is going to happen. But a few weeks ago, the tank of the toilet in my rental cracked, and we called the landlord and had a new toilet the next day at no expense to us, and I thought, thank God I am not a homeowner. :/

        • Emmaleigh504

          Word. A few weeks ago water started coming out of my bathroom ceiling. I called the apt manager and it was fixed while I was at work and they repainted the whole bathroom. I love renting. I may never grow up.

          • I’m in the same boat with you all! My husband and I have pretty much decided we’re just going to always rent for a million reasons, including these.

        • Maybe you shouldn’t buy. Sure your better off in the long run, but if you can’t stomach repairs, etc then don’t bother. I’ve had a rental for 3 years. I’ve spent maybe 1k total on routine stuff and repairs. Things will definitely break as it gets older, but if I sell right now, I’d make a hefty profit. That’s a big benefit for me.

  • When I moved here in 2010, I was making $50K. My monthly student loan payment was around $350. I chose to live in a one-bedroom apartment in columbia heights, which was about 50% of my net pay. Didn’t save any that year (beyond putting in 5% into my TSP plan), but also didn’t go into debt. Had to budget, but I wasn’t feeling totally stressed out either. Probably helped that my friends were in a similar financial position or worse. Helped because it meant we were “resourceful” in our social activities. Oh, and didn’t have a car, and still don’t have one. My only traveling was visiting family on the West Coast a couple times, and a couple weekend trips with friends.

    Anyway, if one is willing to live with roommates and doesn’t have serious student loan debt, I’d say $40K. If one wants to live in his/her own place, at least $45k (with no student loan debt).

  • I’m 25, making just over $45k . I’m fortunate enough to be debt free, now save about $4k/per year, contribute 5% to by 401k, and try to make good financial decisions (though I’m currently having a bit of a “quarter-life crisis” because I’m not sure I’m saving/investing/planning enough).

    Having a roommate and living in modest apartment allows me keep rent costs down a bit, and also enjoy my life (eating out, going to concerts, taking small vacations, etc). I guess I’d call that comfortable.

    I’m curious to see how that compares to my peers and others’ thoughts…

    • You’re doing fine. I’m 28 making 35k as a grad student, I’m saving minimally, and I have loans (deferred, tho some are collecting some interest). It’s the pits. You’re in a good position. I am in a pretty scary one; though, I’m fairly certain it will turn out alright.

  • One year I managed to live on about $24k. I had a roommate, no cable, and didn’t take the metro. It wasn’t comfortable especially when my friends were all out drinking and spending money that I didn’t have. Aside from astronomical rent in DC, the ever-present pressure to consume is probably hurting many new grads who are living beyond their means. That said, $24k was definitely NOT a livable salary.

    • What’s contributing the most to this squeeze are student loans and the astronomical cost of housing. Imagine what our parents paid for housing and education as a percentage of their income when they first got married – it was barely anything as a percentage of their take-home income. In they were solidly middle class, they really were able to stick by 30% of salary for housing expenses.
      Unfortunately, many Boomers see owning housing as their “retirement plan.” The investor class is crowding out actual young families and singles who desperately need to buy a home and put down roots. It really won’t get better anytime soon. For many Millennials and young Gen-X’ers, the first time they own a home is when they will inherit one from their dead parents.

      • Increased investor demand would increase the price. If you want decreased demand, go over to Hillandale and ask Yellen to raise the rates.
        With interest rates below inflation, cash is a losing proposition for retirees. Equities are at high P/E ratios. Meanwhile more and more people are willing to pay over 30% of their salary to live walking distance to small plates. Retirees who want a solid ROI should be purchasing condos in DC.

  • To me livable means you can afford your own one-bedroom apartment so I would say at least $60K per year. That would be livable, but you’d never be able to save for a house and live the American dream.

  • I live in DC and budget very carefully. For the past 2 years, I have spent no more than $2,000 per month ($24,000 per year). In part this is possible because I have a great deal on housing (about $1,000 per month) and I paid my student loans off several years ago. Because of these facts, I have room to fritter away money on unnecessary expenses such as expensive clothes, meals out, etc. I earn more than what I spend but all that goes into savings. I feel like I have a very luxurious life even on $24,000. I know that I am in a very privileged position, but I did not get any extra help from my parents or anyone else.

    • That is pretty impressive. The last time I spent <$25k/yr was for CY 2012 – the first full year after I graduated college – and my rent was far less than yours ($700/mo). Net income was only $37k (gs-7 salary), but that still meant a 30% savings rate after taxes. Excluding your rent, how are you able to manage $12k a year on other expenses, including the 'unnecessary' ones? The reason I ask is that the second biggest expense for that cheap year of mine was for alcohol (both bar expense and liquor/beer store combined) and 'meals out' – totaling about $7,500 for both. I would venture to say about half of which was bought for other people (either friends/dates at the bar and/or house parties). Could it be that some of your 'frittered' money (never heard that term but I like it) and/or feeling of living a luxurious life could have actually been at the expense of someone else? Dates and drinks are expensive for people (guys and gals) who pick up the check, and without digging too deep your impressive budgeteering made me curious.

      • Nope, I can say quite factually that very little in my life is at the expense of anyone else. I don’t eat out as often as many people and I tend not to like fancy restaurants very much anyway. Much of my eating out takes advantage of happy hour specials. I also happen to really enjoy the boxed red wine from Trader Joe’s. Last time someone paid for my meal out was in December for my birthday. I budget $100 per month on eating out and lump my alcohol with my grocery budget, but one of those Trader Joe’s boxed wine will usually last me a month and those cost something like $12. Perhaps I have an unfair advantage when it comes to alcohol– I often get hangovers if I have more than one alcoholic beverage on a night (even when I’m drinking something besides the cheap wine, LOL), so I rarely have more than one drink per day.

        • Are you me? We have very similar spending habits and alcohol tolerances. I don’t eat out often, take advantage of happy hours when I do go out, and my biggest unnecessary expense is definitely clothes.

          • Too funny! Glad I’m not alone as I was starting to feel that way on this thread…

          • In the same boat. Happy hours are the best, I have trouble spending money on a regular priced meal more than once a month. Also rarely drink for similar reasons. As we saw on the Friday Question a few weeks ago, people on this thread are spending $200-400/month eating out, which adds up quickly.

  • $50k. Or at least that’s what I was able to live on somewhat comfortably when I first moved to dc. Lived in a small 1br in van ness with no cable and I paid about $400/ month in student loans. Granted I wasn’t making my 401k match that first year at all and had relatively no money saved.

  • Just reading this thread already makes me feel not as alone. Walking around NW, looking at instagram, catching up with friends— all of my peers seem to be happily and easily spending all of their money going out. Now I know you’re all just hustlin’ too.

  • $55k for a family of two

  • Student loans are the real catch here. My first “real” job out of college paid $32k, and my monthly student loan payments totaled around $1200/month. If I hadn’t been working a second job on weekends and living with someone, I wouldn’t have been able to make it at all. However, a good friend of mine took that job when I left it and had no student loan debt, and he’s been able to live by himself in Pentagon City and still go out fairly regularly, so that was obviously a livable point for someone without student loan debt and without a car.

    • I agree that student loans make all the difference. Granted, I graduated from college ten years ago and understand things are totally different now. At that time, I made $30K, had zero student loan debt, lived in a group house with three friends and had an old car that was long paid off. I still managed to have a social life and save a bit. My lifestyle was by no means extravagant, but definitely was comfortable.
      Today, I know recent grads who make in the neighborhood of $40K and spend upwards of $1,000 to live with several other people in a group house (my rent was about $500 back when I was living in a group house and I had the master bedroom with a private bath!). If you wanted to live by yourself I’d guess you’d need to make $50K + or live in a less than desirable area.

  • I would say $50K+/- depending on student loans. But that would definitely mean roommates and sharing a bathroom and not eating/drinking out too much. Saying that, I am not sure the 20somethings want to live that way. Many have grown up with little in the way of limits on ad hoc spending add to that, many of their parents houses got them used to a certain living situation – own bedroom/bathroom, kitchen amenities, etc. that when incorporated into DC properties add to the rent and may be things they consider dealbreakers.

  • Definitely $55k-$60k. Now, if you earned $40k flat out with no taxes or anything like some of the people above say is livable, then yes, that would be fine. But after taxes and all the other stuff they take out of your paycheck + health insurance people earning “$40k” are actually taking home a lot less, which makes it difficult to live on. That extra $15k or so would is a nice cushion to have.

  • As many others have said it really depends not only on student loans, but whether you have a car and roommates. I’d say $50k if you have student loans (depends on the amount of course), no car, and a roommate or two. I will say I lived with roommates until I moved in with my SO and it sucked at times, but it made things so much more affordable.

    • Car insurance for me is less than 100/month, and gas is about 50 with me driving most nights during the week. My car had been paid off for a long while, so it’s definitely doable to have one and live frugally.

      • That’s still $1800 a year and doesn’t factor in routine maintenance or when you have to pay when something breaks. Granted having a paid off car helps, but owning a car in the city still costs money.

        • True, but ppl easily spend that much on metro & uber esp. If they live further out, and they’re at the mercy of metro. An oil change 3/yr) is roughly 150 because I splurge on the good stuff. Regular would be about 60/yr. Breaking I’ve been lucky with no major issues.
          My car budget is still less than some people’s entertainment budget, and I save time. Car> fancy dinners/booze.

  • Each of my roommates and I make about $20,000/year. I think that we live pretty comfortably. But then we all grew up in working class fams at or below the poverty line, so people like us might not even factor into this discussion. We only go to cheap bars, cook our own food, shop at discount places, use the bus, you know, live reasonably.

    • As another person who makes nowhere near what it seems like most of the commenters make (and work three day jobs/6 days a week, say yes to every job just to support my art, still living paycheck to paycheck and have no savings, please don’t say I’m screwed because I know that already thanks mom), I would say that yes , you DO factor into the conversation. Last night I walked down 14th Street and the restaurants were PACKED- and everyone looked at least ten years younger than me. And I thought- where are these people getting all this money they can just throw away? Throw it at ME! I dunno. I have no answers. I guess I should’ve followed some other dumb dream. 😉

      Okay wait- maybe I do have an answer: Don’t be an artist lol.

      • Emmaleigh504

        Or be an artist like my aunt, married to a successful surgeon. It took her a while, but she did make money off her art. Not enough to live on or anything, but it wasn’t losing money.

      • I think many of us have had those thoughts. Pretty much the only place I go to on 14th St now is Trader Joe’s.

      • Have you considered working in one of those restaurants? You can easily make more money then your 3 jobs combined. Plenty of older ppl doing it. May not be ideal, but I think you’d be better off and able to enjoy a night out once in a while. Food for thought.

        • I turn 40 next month. So I guess I’m now “older”- yikes. I thought of that option but my god I’d spend my income in therapy. That happy hour crowd terrifies me. 😉

          • Then don’t be a bartender lol
            Plenty of places only do happy hour at the bar or have longer hours, so you could potentially avoid it all together.
            I said older as you said ppl dining were 10+ years younger. My point was you don’t need to be in college to make out a viable option.

          • I hear ya. I was kidding- someone above had said something to the effect of “young= 40 and under” in re: something else and I panicked for a second. 😉 Luckily, I look younger than all of them anyway haha!

    • +1! Bourgie Bourgie Bourgie people on this site. You can not just survive, but THRIVE in DC for less than a lot of these salaries people are throwing out. You don’t need Lululemon and Whole Foods to be happy. I promise.

  • I lived in Columbia Heights for 5 yrs renting around 1,100 a month and then just bought a house last yr in Petworth making 52K and I never felt like I was struggling or living paycheck by paycheck. Just depends on how you allocate your money and what your priorities are. If you have a lot of debt, that prob wouldn’t be a great number. I was at the tail end of my student loan and didn’t have any real significant debt.

    • I should also say for the majority of those years I was making under 50K and living in DC in Columbia Heights.

  • When I first moved to DC I took a job in Rockville making $42k, and between my half of the rent ($900) and groceries (well, my then-boyfriend loved Whole Foods, so let’s not go into that) I was pretty strapped a the end of each month (and I didn’t have student loans or a car). I feel like I also had absolutely no social life, so I really have no idea where that money went.

    Today I make ~$60k, spend $1100/mo on rent, and eat and drink in a lot more, but I think building the social aspect is the hardest part. Now that I *have* friends that will chill in my apt with me, I don’t feel the need to press flesh with those terrible hooligans in the Corporate Bars (side note: Piratz is closing and I’m seriously heartbroken). I go to concerts, movies, dinner, the gym (seriously though, WSC is probably getting cut soon).

    For those of you who are super frugal, can you share tips on what you didn’t feel was that important to spend money? I go to a ton of free events hosted by the Smithsonian and Embassies, which is great, and I tend to stay local to Petworth/ColHi/Mt Pleasant. I will say finding friends who live in group houses and infiltrating their social circles has opened a ton of doors.

    • For frugal tips, do not uber/taxi/etc. Walk and/or take metro as much as possible.I know metro is rather expensive, but it still beats a $10 cab ride…they add up. No coffee out, make it at home or treat yourself once a week. If you’re going to go out drinking then try to go to cheap bars, happy hours, etc. I had friends that used to drop $200 bar tabs in one night. I was always amazed (in a bad way). Avoid the cycle of buying new clothes all the time. I started only buying clothes when I need them and now I purchase way less in that area. Set a grocery budget, make a list, and stick to it. Cook at home as much as possible. When I first graduated college I spent ~100 a month on groceries, but this was 8 years ago. I rarely bought meat and stuck to rice, beans, eggs, etc.

      • The coffee tip here is gold. When I first got out of college, I found myself in the habit of going to Starbucks every morning. A couple months in to that habit, I added it up and had a heart attack. Instead of spending ~$100/month on coffee ($5/day, 5 days a week) I make it at home and bring it. A good travel mug is like $15, and if you’re not picky about coffee, a large container of Folgers or Maxwell House is like $7-10 and that should last you a month (depending on how much you have daily). So much cheaper.

        • Yeah, I never go out for coffee now, always make it at home or in the office. $7 for a can of pretty good stuff at TJs, lasts me about 3 weeks.

      • Thank you for this. I am very frugal but I want to pay more attn to how much I’m spending on food. I will start to make a list and put money aside at the beginning of the month.

    • No TV/Cable, and Adblocker on the internet. Not being blasted with advertisements that are designed to make you want stuff is great in cutting down the urge to spend on unnecessary things.

      And as the previous poster said, no taxis, lots of walking (which also means no need to join a gym), and fix your own meals (even though I shop only at Whole Foods, I still get by on less than $300/month for food)

      • Adblocker? THIS IS SOMETHING I CERTAINLY NEED. The internet is currently the only thing that makes me want to buy things (no TV/Cable/Magazines).

        I’m definitely getting more into bringing lunch/avoiding the latte factor (work has free coffee and it’s starbucks anyhow).

        I try to buy non-perishables second hand (goal is 80% — furniture, clothes, etc.) I know where the (not very good) Goodwill is, Georgia Thrift, and STA / Buffalo Exchange, but are there any hidden gems? Is that newish place at 14th and U any good?

    • Always pack a lunch

    • Don’t buy lunch every day! That’s several hundred dollars a month right there, even assuming cheap options like Subway or Chipotle.

    • Get rid of cable, if you have to have tv, get an Apple TV or better yet an Amazon Fire TV Stick if you already have Amazon Prime.

      Don’t feel the pressure to go out all the time. Have nights in with friends. I see friends spending HUGE amounts on going out to eat and drink, and that has been one of the biggest savings for me in the past year or so. I used to drop $100-$300 in a weekend easy between Friday night, Saturday afternoon drinking, and Sunday brunch.

      Ignore the pressure to keep up with everyone. Seriously, if someone is judging you by your clothes label or how many rounds you can pick up, they are a douche. I promise the douches won’t be around in two years.

  • Anonynon

    The people saying you need to make 100k to live in DC….or just live within your means, don’t have a kid or a car.

  • Becks

    When I first moved to DC, I made 35 a year. More than half my salary went to rent. I walked as I could not afford the luxury of the Bus. I had school loans. I didn’t go out, I cooked at home. I saved up to have dinner with friends and a night at Chipotle was a great evening out. I would say 45,000 is the minimum!

  • I’d say $60k, unless you plan to buy real estate. I’m at $50k now and am having trouble finding a decent studio in a niceish neighborhood convenient to work. An extra few hundred a month would easily put me somewhere comfortable. In my current shared apartment, I am able to save a decent amount (between retirement accounts and savings, I put away about 17% each month) and have enough fun money where I’m careful, but don’t have to live paycheck to paycheck. Now, I have absolutely no hope of buying a place in the city anytime soon. I can’t afford a 1 bedroom, and buying a studio doesn’t seem like a good investment, since (hopefully) in the next five years, I’d outgrow it (I’m 30 now).

  • $65k. That’s how much it took for me with my student loans, a studio in town (Argonne), groceries, car payment, insurance, etc. last year. I didn’t save much of anything, but I never felt particularly strapped.

  • As a retired single person renting near Logan Circle, with no loans or kids to pay off and living off investments, I get by very comfortably on $40K a year. $20K covers rent, the other $20K covers food, transportation (bus, walking, and zipcar twice a month), entertainment (movies and books), health insurance and medical bills, clothes, travel (trip to New Zealand this year), and charity. Minimal income taxes because of the way my investments are structured.

  • Seems the consensus answer is about 50-60K. I manage a team of junior to mid-level folks in the private sector, some of whom are singles whose salaries are about in this range. None of them are killing themselves to pay DC rents. They live in Bowie, Temple Hills, Springfield, Rockville, Silver Spring etc.

    • I think that’s fine if you know people out there. As a young single person, I’d be pretty miserable out in the burbs as all of my friends live, work, and hang out in DC.

      • Very true. Living in Arlington/Alexandria is no big deal to me (from that social aspect) but it’s not cheaper whatsoever than living in DC. If you want to move out far enough to save money on rent, it’s going to cost you in other areas – social life, cost of transportation to get into/out of the city, the price you put on your time commuting, etc. Gotta weigh all those factors.

        • Yeah, I’ve been thinking about moving out of my shared apartment and every time I’m in Arlington or Alexandria I think this wouldn’t be so bad if I was living with my boyfriend (who lives across the country 🙁 ) or a roommate (which would defeat the purpose). Perfectly nice neighborhoods with great restaurants/shopping and accessible grocery stores (I currently live a 15-20 min walk from the nearest one, so that’s a major bonus) and decent commutes, but even the few friends I had in Virginia have either left the area or moved into the city.

          • I do live in Arlington, and I really love it. Don’t get me wrong, I love DC too, but I just enjoy the way it feels compared to DC. It is definitely not cheaper, though, except for a couple small neighborhoods that aren’t near public transit and aren’t all that nice/exceptionally safe. We live here because it’s a good middle ground for us between a busy city and the suburbs.

        • This is a reason for leaving that is not often discussed. For my wife and I to get under the 30% housing mark we had to bite the bullet and move farther out. Desirable neighborhoods were just not in our income range, but we desire each other so are ok with accepting the social cost of living beneath our means.

          • And that’s totally fair! I have plenty of friends that live further out for various reasons and commute in daily, and while they sometimes say that they wish they were closer in, they prefer what they’re doing. Everyone values different things in life, and if owning your own home with a yard is one of those ultimate goals, for example, then you might have to look further out.

          • Bur longer commutes, at least by car, have been shown take a toll on your health in various studies. So there’s more than just preference involved, if feeling good and taking care of your health is seen as essential and not just a preference.

          • I hate New Carrolton and my daily metro ride. But commuting is really the only financial decision for us. We are a family of four and prefer to live mortgage free. For the price of a 3/2 here you can’t get a studio walking distance to my office on K street.

    • they probably all have cars too (except maybe those in S. Spring), so whatever they’re saving in rent they’re paying in other ways. I’d rather not have the car and live in the District for the reason AG gave.

      • +1, Interesting how folks forget that cheaper rent further away usually means higher commuting costs. I and many others my age prefer no car and living more central.

  • 65K per year. After pre-tax deductions for 401K, taxes and industry deductions (railroad retirement board), take-home comes out to roughly 40K per year. So that’s roughly $3,350 take-home per month, on average. Where the HELL does all that go? I swear i’m not trying to troll POPville but, you know what…here goes…

    Rent: $620 per month
    Utilities: $200 per month
    Cigarettes: $150 per month
    Food at Work: $160 per month
    Food at Home: $200 per month
    Eating Out: $400 per month
    Bar Tabs: $400 per month
    Concerts: $200 per month

    Then, factor in: Weddings, bachelor parties, trips home, dates, etc…and boom – you’re living paycheck to paycheck. That said, I like to party. I’m 30 and never once felt like I ever “missed out” on anything.

    Moral of the story – GET ROOMMATES AND GO HARD!

    • How the hell does one only pay $620/month in rent without living literally on top of someone else (like, sharing a room in a group house)? I have never seen a craigslist add for a room in house for less than ~$800. (Then again, I guess I’m trading all your other things for my higher rent — I don’t drink often at all, almost never go to restaurants, don’t smoke, don’t go to concerts, don’t take cabs… mostly because I can afford none of these things.)

      • It’s 820 w/ utilities. That seems pretty average for grouphouses.

      • I’ve been looking on craigslist a lot recently and there are definitely are rooms for less than $800…they’re just not in the most “desirable” neighborhoods. Or the house has like 6+ roommates…

      • I lucked out, really. I live in a group house with 2 friends who had a spare bedroom in it. It’s WAY up north in the city (still in DC proper by like 2 blocks), but accessible to the S-buses and the 70 bus, 10 min walk from takoma AND silver spring metros. Utilities vary, but i’d say it averages out to around 200 a month. I WAS living alone and spending half of my take-home for a one bedroom. It was cool and all, but I was one emergency away from not being able to make rent, and I was always strapped for cash after rent was paid.

    • Smoking may be great strategy to avoid having to save much for retirement.

  • It would be really interesting to do a post and have people comment with their actual current salaries are. Lots here are saying “I used to make $30k” or whatever. I’d be really interested to know what the general Popville readership is making now, ballpark.

  • LisaT

    Livable? Single person? As you said, many factors, but considering location as the primary, I’d say minimum $60k; desirable location, $75k.

  • These answers are a sociologists’ wet dream. I love how people would sooner raise the amount of money required to live the yuppie life with no sacrifices than even entertain the thought of living somewhere less desirable and cheaper. In 2010, the bottom quintile of DC households (not individuals) had an average income of $9,062. The 2nd lowest quintile had an average household income of $32,500. These people are struggling, for sure, but they’re living. Some of the posts I’ve seen here ($80K, $90K) suggest answers for how much it costs to live a privileged life in DC.

    • +100

    • Well, the question was asked toward a single person, so you can probably assume that the responses skew young (by young I mean 40 and under). Also, this is a District blog, so of course the people who comment are going to be people who sacrifice saving for living in the city. I don’t disagree with your overall point about what “living” means in the city, but this sample is not representative of DC’s actual demographics.

    • That’s a fairly inapt comparison. If your definition of “liveable” is not dying on the streets, you’re rendered meaningful discussion impossible. Moreover, all of the people in the bottom quintile and many of the people in the second quintile are getting (or are entitled to) significant government assistance in order to survive (paid for, in part, by those you deride as living a privileged life). If your argument that someone who is on public assistance is making a liveable wage, well, we’ll just have to disagree.

  • I have done it on 45k, but 55-60k makes me feel more comfortable. I have student loans, a paid off car, and I try to go out once a week minimum. I’m pretty frugal on entertainment because I’m so busy, and my hobbies ate a bit pricey. I could live alone for slightly more than I pay to share, so I think those will work.
    Liveable is being able to buy what I want when I want it while being able to save. I’m talking a nice pair of shoes not a diamond ring, and I maxed out my ira contribution last year. I’ve had to slack on retirement savings due to illness wrecking me financially, but I’m good now.

    As a side note, I bought my home in my early 20s all my own money on a fha with closing help offered. My parents cosigned the mortgage, though. I saved everything over the years leading up to it. As prices have increased, it’s certainly harder now but not impossible got plenty of people.

    • +1 pricey hobbies make all the difference. I sometimes feel broke but then realize that I drink a ton of killer wine and have awesome musical instruments and stereo equipment.

      • Martial arts for me, but my gym membership isn’t that much more than many high end gyms or personal training.

  • $60k.

    I am distinctly more comfortable making close to $60k than I was at $45k. I have a car payment and student loan debt, but you can **cap your loan payments** using IBR if you’re really feeling the squeeze. That interest is tax-deductible anyway.

    • Interest is only tax deductible if you make under ~$80K. And even then, the deduction gets smaller and smaller as you approach $80K.

      • If you made over 80k, would you be as worried about that deduction…I hope not.

        • Um, it depends on your monthly payment. I’d say that people who make more – especially after a grad school program like b-school or law school – also carrying the highest student loan balances. So yes, when you make low 6 figures but your student loan payment is $700/month then that interest write-off would really help.

          • +1 thank god for scholarships my loans aren’t that high but I sure would love the interest deduction.

          • Yep, this exactly. And when you get married, you can only claim the $2,500 tax deduction once total. Not for each of you. My husband and I got our tax statements this year and the total we paid towards student loans that was purely interest and was tax deductible was around $15,000. We got to deduct $2,500. It doesn’t make much of a dent, but I guess it’s nice that it’s there.

        • I make over $80k, and I wish I could take that deduction. We don’t own, so I currently have no tax deductions or write offs.

  • For me, livable is affording a 1 bedroom, a car and paying down my loans. Considering DC tends to be an over educated city with high rents, unless you have no student loans, credit card debt or car loan, I’d say the minimum I could live on is around $70k. That would give you room to live on your own, pay down your debt, go out once in a while and put some money into savings/401k. Now if you’re debt free, then I’d say you could comfortably live on $55k. You won’t be living lavishly, but you’ll certainly get by and have savings at the end of the year.

  • HaileUnlikely

    I started off at $24K in 2004 and got by ok (lived in group house in Brightwood, rent < $500/mo). Started a new job in 2006 making about $40K and that was much more comfortable. I stayed in the same group house–which I actually liked quite a bit–and threw $1000/month at my student loans ($28K total) until they were gone, then started contributing 15-20% to my 401k (employer matches first 6%), donate 8-10% of gross to various charities, and by the end of 2012 I had saved $100K cash (down payment for house plus emergency fund sufficient to cover homeowner version of emergency). Yes I got raises between the $40K in 2006 and the present, but only one was significantly more than a standard cost of living increase. It helps that I don't do happy hours (not only because of money but because I'm an introvert and that sort of environment makes me want to run and hide) and most of my friends are social work / employees of religious organizations / etc and only one or two make much more money than I do, so my day-to-day environment does not involve trying to keep up the lifestyle of people who have a lot to spend. In other words, for a young single person with no dependents, any amount goes way further if you mostly associate with others in the same boat than if you mostly associate with others who make a lot more.

    • Lol! I love your introvert comment- so true! I too am an introvert and while I like to go to the occasional happy hour, I probably save a ton of money because most nights I find I’m too exhausted from being around people all day to go out.

  • SORRY, WHAT? Livable Salary=60k plus? That’s INSANE.

    I started working in DC in 2013 and my salary was $30k. Made ends meet just fine for the 9 months while I was at that job. My rent was $750 plus utilities for my share of the rent with one other roommate in a 2 bedroom apartment in Bethesda, MD close to the metro. I went out with friends a few times a week, saw shows at 9:30, and paid for my student loans/bills. I wasn’t able to save money, but I did just fine. Now, I earn $48k and rent a rowhouse in Park View with two roommates. My rent is $730 plus utilities. I’m able to pay significantly higher payments on my loans, can afford nicer beer, go to more events, and have more money in my savings. I don’t consider than living paycheck to paycheck.

    I’m really happy with what I’m able to experience in DC. There are tons of free events. You can do it for less. Everyone is just being bourgeoisie as heck.

    • It’s almost impossible to get TWICE your $730 rent now. That’s not bourgeoisie , that’s reality.

      • HaileUnlikely

        It might be difficult to find something for less than 2 x $730 if you have something specific in mind, but in general, it ain’t that hard to find a safe warm place to call home for less than $1460/month.

        • Sounds like someone hasn’t tried lately.

          I have several friends who have had to move recently. Group homes are almost impossible to get into because one opening gets 200 (no joke) responses. Apartments get bidding wars. I had one friend who spent six months trying to get something, basically gave himself time to find a “deal.” Ended up paying 1750 for a basement studio near Howard, when it was originally advertised as 1200.

          • HaileUnlikely

            One of my friends just moved into a nice studio in the vicinity of 16th & Park and is paying something like $1375 or $1395. I helped him move two weeks ago. Is that recent enough?

          • 1750 for a basement studio near Howard? Above ground studios near Dupont go for that. There’s a terrible housing affordability probably in this city, but please don’t be ridiculous.

          • Agreed with Anonymouse.

          • Not sure where your friend was looking. I moved in November and didn’t have a problem finding a a place. I pay as much as your friend for a top floor apartment in Columbia Heights. My buidling currently has 4 or 5 available apartments, all that price or lower, including a studio for $1350. Building is in good shape and well run. Might even be the one HaileUnlikely’s friend is in. 7 minute walk to Metro, right by the S buses.

          • People are willing to pay outrageous premiums to be in “cool” areas. I rented an 800 sq.ft. apartment in Cleveland Park for $1,750, which included a parking spot and water, gas, and electric. Now I pay $2,200 for my mortgage in Silver Spring. Yay 3 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, a yard, and better schools!

          • The schools in Silver Spring are better than John Eaton, Deal and Wilson? That’s debatable.

          • valentina

            I would really love to know what apt building Formerly Single Guy lives in? That seems unreal.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Location as specified narrows it down to 2 or 3

    • Ding ding ding, we have a winner! This is the right answer. I made < $38k in my second job and managed to buy a studio at the same time with no aid from my parents. (Thank you HPAP). Did I go out to eat a ton? Nope. Did I live in a weird house in shaw? Yes, but it worked.

      Yeah, life's a lot easier making $80k+, but DC is definitely doable on $40k or less. Just have to be a little more creative.

    • I more or less agree with you – but to be fair, I think the post was kind of ambiguous – to me, “livable” means “get by without worrying about making ends meet.” But “drinks and/or dinner a couple nights a week” and “all the other regular sundries” sounds more like “living comfortably” to me. So I think some people are talking about the latter, and others the former.
      In general, I think that for a single person who keeps a budget and doesn’t have student loans or a car payment, $40k is pretty livable and should allow you to put away a small emergency fund (which everyone should have). But you won’t be living in a hot neighborhood, going on annual vacations, or shopping at places much more upscale than the Gap. Add $20k for that. Add $5k for undergrad loans. And add $15-25k If you have professional school debt (MBA, JD, MD).

  • You can live in DC on any income – just live within your means, people. If you want to be young and single and make $20K and live in a group house with a ton of roommates and find the cheapest happy hours and go to house parties and shop at thrift stores DO IT WHILE YOU CAN!!! Not everyone in DC is wearing expensive clothing and eating at ridiculous restaurants all the time and throwing their money around thinking that it proves they’re worth something.

    When I was single i was making between $50 – $60K, had a great studio apartment, and felt like I had it made! I knew I was lucky to have that much. To people who think you need $80K minimum to be comfortable – you should really try to leave NW from time to time and see what is happening in your city. Be aware of your privilege.

    • This! Guys, thriftiness is pretty cool. Check out Georgia Thrift for sweet vintagey finds (avoid Meeps and the like, they’re just not that nice/cool). You’ll strike out sometimes but then you’ll find that amazing cincher that you take with you everywhere and everyone compliments. My work cardigan is an old Dior sweater I picked up for $2.

      Granted, if you work on the Hill or K St it might not be as much of an option, but coming from Florida I’m terribly disappointed in lack of thift stores. I actually travel back to Fl a few times a year and load up my entire suitcase with work appropriate second hand clothing.

      Also I’m very very bad and carry a flask because DC drink prices are absolutely ridic. And I don’t need to get tanked, so a swig or two outside the bar is enough.

  • I live pretty solid on $45K. I have $500 a month for car payments, $1250 for a studio, so that gives me $3,500 in take home every $2,800… so that’s $700 spending. $140 for savings, $80 for utilities, $480 a month spending for groceries/nights out/emergencies.

    I paid off my student loans by living in a group house in Petworth ($750 each).

    But of course I live in Van Ness, so it’s not exactly the heart of DC. But at least I can shop for groceries in MD, which has been a huge savings on food for me. Biggest drawback is that I had to co-sign a my lease because minimum income was $65,000. Soooooo.

  • Everyone’s idea of “comfortable” is extremely different. If you need to live in a luxury building, go out to dinner 3 times a week, go on vacations, buy new clothes all the time and take Uber everywhere then yeah you probably need to make close to $100k. I make just shy of $50k now, but when I first moved to DC I made like $37k and my expenses haven’t changed that much and I feel just as comfortable as I did then. Rent is $850 in Columbia Heights (with two roommates) and that includes everything from cable to electric. I don’t own a car so even if i moved to the suburbs and lived somewhere cheaper, needing a car would probably offset any savings I’d get in housing costs. I probably go out to eat/drink at least a couple of times a week (“going out” can mean anything from $1 tacos at wonderland to spending around $40-$50 on dinner/drinks at a nicer place), go on a couple vacations/weekend trips a year and make a $150/month payment to student loans. I’ve built up an emergency savings and am continuously building that so if something crazy happened I wouldn’t have to rely on credit cards. I also save about 6% into my 401k with a generous company match. I keep meaning to go to grad school, but then I’m like oh wait, look at all the crippling debt I’ll have afterwards…

    I work for a retirement plan advisor so I’m probably more attuned to my finances than the average person since financial education is in my face everyday, which doesn’t mean I make all the right choices, but I am more conscious of how I spend. Unless you’re making an obscene amount of money there’s just no way you can do everything, and DC is not the only city where that’s true.

  • justinbc

    I honestly have no clue since I moved here after already having been working for several years and never experienced it in just a “livable” fashion (I view this term as meaning just getting by, with a few conveniences here and there). If I had to guess, I would say $40K with no car and no student loans, maybe more like 60-80K depending on how much of those types of debt you have. The entry level salaries for many of DCs professions make that relatively easy to do though. As for the parental help thing, I think people drastically overstate the occurrence of this in DC because it makes them feel better about being in a position they would rather not be in. It’s easy to just say someone else is successful because their parents gave it to them, it’s a lot harder to work to improve your own standing. I don’t know a single one of my friends who are where they are because their parents paid for them to get there. My partner and I sure as hell didn’t have that help, and we’ve both done just fine.

  • My husband, infant son, and I are “comfortable” and saving a bit each month on his $45k salary. We rent a 1 bedroom in Petworth, use cloth diapers, pack lunch, walk or bike if possible, and pass up most luxuries, but we don’t feel like we’re struggling or missing out on anything important.

    • That’s impressive! I make twice as much and don’t have kids or anyone else to support, with basically the same lifestyle as you.

    • justinbc

      “missing out on anything important”
      That’s an important distinction to make. Everyone has a different sense of what’s important in life, and to some attending the latest bar opening or being active in the DC social scene really isn’t one of those things. In a city with so many free things to enjoy you really can have a great time without spending a lot of money.

    • Are you saving anything for your retirement ot your child’s education? I’d consider those important . . .

  • janie4

    In 2006 I was scraping by on $45,000. I had small student loans, but high car insurance due to being in three accidents in three years (I was an inexperienced crappy driver back then). I had debt from fixing the car from my accident. $900 in rent living in a suburb commuting to another suburb 22 miles away, so needed a car. I used to make $15 an hour under the table on the weekends, which paid for my fun. Not saving for retirement, and almost everything I made went out the door on debt repayment or expenses. But I was living the way I wanted – cable, living alone, a computer – so I think that’s the bare minimum for me.

  • My first job out of undergrad in January 2006 – I made $33K/yr, lived in a group house at 13th & T paying $760-$820 (rent went up during the 2.5 years I lived there). No car, no student loans, I put 5% into my 401K, and felt very comfortable. I’m not a big shopper or traveler, and I also didn’t save much but I was fine. I think I COULD HAVE lived on less but not by much.

    Fast forward to 2015, I have $107,000 annual salary with ~$200,000 in student loans but no other debt. Rent/household expenses have doubled (now live with just my partner in a rented 2 BR condo in Columbia Heights). Now I put about 15% of my salary (part pre, part post tax) into retirement and savings, and still feel very comfortable – although not “rich” per se. The student loans are a huge factor, but also so is getting older and wanting more to be “comfortable.” Like, during my 20s I put up with a lot from some of my roommates that I don’t think I could live with now that I’m in my 30s.

    Anyway, to answer the question, I think a single person making about $3000 per month (AFTER paying student loans…so maybe $4000 net monthly income for someone with law school debt) with a roommate or partner can live comfortably in DC. I think after taxes, health insurance premiums, and other payroll deductions that would work out to about $60K annual salary (roughly), again, assuming no debt. Probably would need closer to $75-80K per year with debt.

    • I would also say that when I was in law school from ’08-’11 I was living off of approx. $2200/month (cost of living loans + income from a part time job at a coffee shop), where $1100 went to rent and the other $1100 went to everything else (cell phone bill, groceries, utilities, school books, clothes, booze) and I remember I always thought, if only I had like $2500/month I wouldn’t be stressed, and if I had $3000/month I would be “comfortable.” which is how I came up with this answer.

  • Just to add to this discussion…. I moved to Brightwood two years ago from Maryland with my three children after separating from my ex (moved in with my best friend). My decision to move here was largely based on getting rid of my commute (since I already lived in DC) and free early childhood education for my children. At the time I was making $55k, which soon went up to $58k+ when I got a new job, and also child support that was enough, but still below the amount that would have been madated by the court. This was enough for me to live very comfortably, especially once my youngest hit the magical age of 3 and was able to attend DPR summer camp and then school this year, and I was no longer paying for daycare. I was able to comfortably cover all of my bills, have money for what I wanted to spend money on, and was just about to start contributing to a 401k when I was laid off, which was the same time that my ex decided child support was optional. Being unemployed in this city is really hard, and within a month and a half of losing my job, I was pretty much broke. I then took a job just to have a job and health insurance (one of my biggest fears is being without health insurance), and now make $45k. After finally getting caught up from being laid off, I am now able to live a little bit above the paycheck to paycheck mode, however, there is no wealth building, there is no room for a 401k, and very little safety net. I will say, if I was in the same situation in Maryland, I would be screwed because they do not have universal early childhood education and I would be facing another year of daycare for my youngest (even though my salary is meager by DC standards, it is still too much to qualify for head start in Maryland). So all of this, combined with my wonderfully amazing housemate, means that I am able to survive (barely) in DC, just like that many other young families, single moms, etc. I think what it boils down to is the kind of lifestyle you live. DC can be affordable and livable if you make it that way.

  • some of these comments are absurd. i make 50k a year, have a $600/mo student loan payment, have a great deal on a nice room in a group house in columbia heights (3 blocks from metro) at $650/mo, and still have plenty of money leftover for savings and enjoying myself in the city. i don’t own a car, but have never really needed one. my second biggest expense after loans + rent is my unlimited yoga membership at $90/month.

    if i had kids or was in my 30s, maybe a different story. but you can definitely make it work on 50k or less.

    • +1! same boat as you. not having a car or kids is pretty helpful. you definitely don’t need more than that to enjoy yourself as a single person, if you’re good at managing your money.

      • Yeah, but a car is essential for getting to many (most?) jobs in the region. My partner and I are able to get by with sharing a car, but we wouldn’t be able to earn a living in our respective careers without one.

        • Yep, my husband and I share a car, but he works in IT and most of the good jobs in that field are in Reston/Herndon so he really does have to drive to work. He would never have the opportunities he’s had without us having a car. Taking the metro plus a bus would be WAY more expensive monthly than our car payment/insurance/gas (we worked it out when we bought our car).

          • Now that the Silver Line is open, the vast majority of jobs are accessible to Metro. That may mean folding bike + Metro (buses just aren’t reliable enough in the suburbs), but there’s no *need* for a car. And a lot of employers will subsidize Metro. Obviously there are exceptions to this (my condolences to anyone who works at the Mark Center). But for most people a car is a convenience, not a necessity.

          • SouthwestDC

            Yep, commuting to the suburbs is the cost of having a job in IT or engineering. I’m lucky and can get to my job in Arlington with public transit, but I don’t think there’s any way for my girlfriend to get to hers, so we carpool. Even if I was single I’d probably drive to work because it’s 4 times faster and taking Metro costs almost as much as owning and driving my car.
            I think it’s funny that people think DC residents have cars just for fun– we need them to stay employed!

    • Whoa, you need to realize that most people are paying at least 2-3X your $650/mo rent because that’s what’s available. You being super lucky doesn’t make people’s concerns absurd.

      • I agree. It’s not like everyone wants to live in luxury apartment buildings, but that’s the bulk of what’s available.

      • those places are out there if you make it your priority to pay less. my boyfriend has spent $650 (hill east), $475 (hill east) and now $550 (h st ne area). of course his rooms have been on the smaller side (the $475 & $550 places only fit a twin bed), but it’s certainly POSSIBLE. there’s lots of places for the upper 800s in columbia heights especially during the summer moving season, and i reckon i could still afford that without any big changes in my life.

        • justinbc

          They ARE out there, but based on many stories posted to this blog the applicant list is 10-50 people long, so it may be tough to get into.

          • Nonsense. I’ve rented all over this city and have never paid more than $800 a month – whether it was a house share in NW ($750), apartment share ($800), or crummy basement apartment in a really non-hip ‘hood ($500, and no that’s not a typo). It takes a little bit of persistence and planning, but it’s really not that hard.

          • justinbc

            @Eponymous, I’m not speaking from personal experience, as my rents have been way more than that in every place I’ve lived, but I can tell you that I see people bitching about it regularly on this site.

      • i also find it hard to believe “most” people are paying more than $1300-1950 for a bedroom in a group house in columbia heights.

        • Paying now is different than getting now, to be fair. Many are in 4-year-old leases with absentee landlords that don’t care, but go way up when they the house opens up.

          • i started living in this house last august, fwiw. before that i lived in an apartment share for 900/mo (utilities included).

          • +1. Also, I’m beginning to think that the group houses/multiple bedroom apartments only rent out the biggest most expensive room (and existing tenents choose the cheaper ones). Its like that episode on Parks & Rec where Andy says that the best kind of roommate is the one who pays more than their fair share without knowing any better….. -_-

          • I’ve seen rooms big and small on cl, but logistically it makes sense. I just think the larger rooms have higher turnover. Ppl aren’t quick to leave a good deal. My roomie pays slightly more than “fair”, but she has a larger closet, and I take care of getting repairs ordered and everything is in my name.

  • I’m making $45k and am living in an expensive group house in shaw, paying student loans, paying credit card debt, going to a lot of concerts, eating and drinking plenty of yummy things, and really enjoying my life. I wouldn’t say I’d turn down extra money, but do I NEED it? nope.

    • If you have credit card debt and going to concerts, eating out, etc you aren’t doing it right. get your credit card down to 0 then those other things instantly get cheaper since you don’t pay interest for them.

  • As someone who makes about 36k, 1/3 of which is taken out in taxes… this discussion is very depressing for me, haha. Fortunately I don’t have student loans, which helps a ton, and up until this fall I managed to find ridiculously cheap housing for 3 years in row. Now I’m in a place where my rent is over half my take-home pay, and it’s very stressful. I cook lunch during the week, but still go out a fair bit for cheap happy hours. I manage, but it’s definitely very stressful.

  • My first year in DC, 2010, I made $37,500 and paid $1,100 per month to live in a nice group house in Woodley Park with friends. I paid $350 per month in student loans. I hardly ever ate out, always brought my lunch to work, only had 1-2 drinks when I went out for happy hour, etc. I rode my bike to work when it was warm enough and took the metro when it was cold (my personal threshold is about 30 degrees). I hardly ever felt deprived because most of my friends and coworkers were in similar situations. I had between $3-4,000 in savings at any given time, most of which was money I saved while working in college.

    Last year I made $57,000, paid $700 for rent and $600 in loans. I was also able to save $400 per month and felt extremely wealthy. I recently got married and economies of scale are allowing us to pay down my student loans very quickly. Through we have fewer expenses, we haven’t felt the need to change our lifestyle. My husband makes a little more than me.

    I think the concept of an Emergency Fund is missing from this conversation about a livable wage. Emergency funds are essential because you never know when you’ll lose your job, have a medical emergency, family emergency, etc. Factored into a livable wage should be the capacity to save 3-6 month’s rent as an Emergency Fund. That’s not wealth, that’s just being practical, IMHO.

    • Building up my emergency fund was the first priority when I first moved to DC 7 years ago (on a $28k salaray FWIW). I’ve had a solid 6 mos of living expenses saved up there for a few years now, so these days that’s not factored into my regular budget and I only save for retirement and travel.

  • I make $60k and I think you need to make atleast $70k to live comfortably in DC. I pay $1490 for a studio between U Street and Columbia Heights and also walk everywhere — which doesn’t make up for having a gym–by the way: no intense cardio or weight training. Commenters keep talking about having roommates to save money, but after having such negative and dicey roommate experiences– a roommate breaking the lease, then having financially unreliably subletters who almost left me paying full rent on a 2 bedroom apartment several times, I can never trust my financial situation to another random roommate again, and am willing to pay more for a studio for this peace of mind.

  • Dang, these numbers are crazy. Until I started teaching this school year, I was making it work on less than $20k a year (plus whatever money i made under the table babysitting). My rent was less than $600 and I had deferred my student loans. Now at $53k for a 10 month contract, I feel really rich. I’ll probably do a significant amount of babysitting this summer too.

    • I know a teacher who did tutoring over the summer. Might pay more then babysitting

      • It definitely would per hour, but to command $60-80/hr, it would involve quite a bit of prep work and would be very few hours. I’m lucky to be in a position where I can afford to not work over the summer, so I’ll take babysitting for $20/hr.

  • More $ is always better, but the common thread boils down to what is important to you. I love living in the city for the way the city is (the people, energy, convenience of some things, even the massive pain in the ass for others things has its charm) but I really don’t care about what new restaurant is opening, or going out to dinner, or spending $12 on a drink. Now I like to drink and go out, and I love a good cocktail, but I can (a) make it at home or at friends house or (b) hit up some of the ridiculously cheap HH in this city. I can walk into DC Reynolds or a Petworth Citizen with $20 and have 3 or 4 drinks and leave tip. I cook at home pretty much every night (live with the SO, and even more frugal, so that helps with respect to keeping rent low and since she is not interested in going out much, there is no social pressure to keep up). we don’t have a tv or cable either. My major expenses are my Nats ticket package (20 games), probably 2-4 concerts a month, buy a new book each week, and a couple trips a year. Other than that, hobbies are cheap (play a lot of tennis), I’m literally the adult Doug Funny, I make the trip to the outlets once a year, spend $300 on blue oxfords, a couple sweaters, a new hoodie, and a pair of jeans and khakis and that’s it. Pretty relaxed policy at work, and just have the one good suit and a couple blazers for formal and semi-formal stuff. I have a stupid amount of student loan debt, a small but not insignificant amount of credit card debt (that is going to be paid off in the next 8 months) and I’ve managed to live pretty well. I maintained a very similar life style in grad school on a TA stipend, and Ive maintained the same lifestyle with a salaries ranging from $30-$50k. I don’t feel the pressure to save a ton, I wish could, but its not an option so I just kind of roll with it, but, I manage to sock away a few hundred every month or so and after a bit it does add up. I don’t have any desire to own a house, so I’m not stressing trying to put money away for that. As long as I few dollars to spoil my cat with toys and treats I’m probably going to be just fine.

  • I’d say $90-$100k for a single person beyond the age of living with roommates (so, late 20s / early 30s). It’s incredibly hard to find a metro-accessible apartment for under $2k a month. Add in $600-$800 for student loans, a decent budget for food / utilities / entertainment / etc, and then saving for three things that are important to me – 10% a year for retirement, as much as you can spare for a down payment on a house, and a week abroad somewhere once every other year – and then you’re right around the $90k a year point.
    Of course, if you already happen to own a home and therefore get both the mortgage interest deduction and, since that always exceeds the standard deduction in DC, the ability to itemize on top of that, you can drop that number by $8-$12k a year. Without that tax break, though, you’re losing over 33% right off the top to taxes. So now, at $90k, you’re really working with $60k, and after housing that falls to $36k, then after food to $30k, then after utilities $27k, then after retirement savings $18k, student loans at $750/m (pretty common among the grad degree set here) takes you to $9,000, $2k a year for travel (home for the holidays, occasional vacation) down to $7,000. Divide that over 52 weeks a year and you’re looking at about $150 a week for *everything* else – that occasional concert, a nice date here and there with someone who caught your eye, other debt (credit cards, etc), a car if you want / need one, metro fares, etc.
    Of course, if you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t owe anything in student loans, who plans to come into family money rather than save for retirement, and / or has housing at a much more affordable price because you’re rent control or you bought a condo ten or twelve years ago, etc, then you can get by quite comfortably on a LOT less.

    • HaileUnlikely

      Work on search skills. It is not hard to find a metro-accessible apartment for less than $2K/month unless you have very poor search skills or standards for living accommodations with which I am not able to empathize. If either is the case, um, sorry, I guess.

      • That is not liveable! That is a life of luxury and privilege. And LOL yes you can find a place for less than 2k ON TOP of metro. My partner and I lived in Navy Yard literally on top of the metro for $1800 plus 2 free parking spots and free storage!

    • HaileUnlikely

      Note: I agree with most of the remainder of what you wrote, but I do not know one person who pays that much for rent for less than a two bedroom. I know that lots of people do, but it is far from being a necessity.

  • FYI: The final episode of the Susie Orman Show airs on CNBC this weekend. : (
    I appreciate all the financial advice she has given over the years. I have more savings because of it. Also credit her for making me not feel bad about being a renter.

  • Jesus, I love that the people saying “What do you mean you need to make that much money? I don’t make much and I’m fine” are people paying way less than $1000/mo in rent. Keep in mind that the basic bottom on a group house is now about $1200, a studio is about $1500 and a 1BR is about $2200. Sure, you can find places for less, but they get into bidding battles, or you’re just friggin’ lucky.


      I pay $1400 and live super close to the metro, and 2 blocks from multiple restaurants and bars.

      First Listing on CL in the apartment section. There are plenty of affordable 1br if you’re willing to look and give up some newer amenities,

      1 BR apartment in Glover Park, Washington DC. In-building laundry. Hardwood floors, refrigerator, Stove, 3 Closets, 1 Bath/Shower, in 22-Unit apartment building. $1320/month. Includes heat & water. Ready for immediate occupancy.

      Across from Stoddard Elementary School. On the D2 Bus Route. Three Blocks to Wisconsin Ave = 30s Bus Route; Whole Foods, CVS, restaurants, hair salons, and WSC gym.

      • But seeing an ad for an apartment doesn’t mean you can actually rent it. There are usually many people ahead of you who also want that apartment and may have applied first, have better credit, etc.
        Last time I was looking it took me 3 months. I wanted a 2 bedroom, under $2k, where I could have a cat and near transit. It was HARD.

        • Well, yeah, it’s hard to find a 2BR near a metro for under $2k, of course… but the example from Craiglist was in response to the person claiming rooms in a group house are running $1200, which is probably overstating the average by $250-350.

          • Sure, but good luck getting one of those cheaper rooms when over a hundred other people are also responding to the ad.

    • Yup, I think it comes down to what you’ve become used to. Over a decade ago while I was in school, I made do just fine on $20K, possibly less. Now that I’ve had a steady job for a long time and the much higher income that comes with, it would be incredibly tough to go back to that. I could if I had to I guess. But it would take a lot of work and I’d certainly considering it surviving more than living.

    • Sure makes me miss my old, large, bright bedroom in Bloomingdale for $925…

    • Not at all. I’ve lived in many group houses for a fraction of that rate.

  • I guess comfortable means different things to different people. When I first moved here, I made 54K and paid 1300/month in rent. And I lived very comfortably. Never did I feel like I lived paycheck to paycheck. You just have to be frugal. It’s not difficult.

  • I’m surprised nobody has cited the skyrocketing costs of stabling their horse. How is a civilized person supposed to live in this city?

    • Actual lol

    • I Dont Get It

      I’ll never forget the time I overheard an intern explaining that the reason why she lived in Virginia versus DC was that she brought her horse with her.

      • SouthwestDC

        That is honestly the best reason for living in Virginia versus DC that I’ve ever heard.

      • “If it were’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college.”

      • palisades

        Ugh. I work in Fairfax. My coworker has a horse in Gainesville. She made her boyfriend move with her out to Centreville just so she could live close to the horse. Nevermind the fact that her boyfriend works in Adams Morgan. If I were him I would be MISERABLE.

        • If I were him, I’d dump her. Sounds like she values the relationship with the horse more than the boyfriend (which is fine……but I won’t be someone’s second fiddle at the expense of a 90 commute).

  • This question should have a poll. Seems like the responses are all over the map.
    When I moved here right out of college I felt comfortable on my $55k salary, and probably could have gone a little bit lower. But that was 10 years ago.

  • I moved to DC in December 2008, got a job earning $28k with a total take-home just shy of $1,800/mo. I lived in a suburban group home a mile or so from the Metro for $600/mo plus utilities (~$100/mo). I probably paid $200/mo on Metro/buses and $50 on cabs. Other than that, I paid my student loans, got drunk and ate out frequently, went to shows, etc. The only thing I didn’t do that often was travel. Now that I’m making 4x that salary, I sort of miss the discipline of it all.

  • i love all the get-off-my-lawn types in here going on here about how they used to live on $40k in d.c. 5, 8, 10 years ago. i bet they also walked to work uphill both ways in the snow.

    • I Dont Get It

      Yeah which is why I’m not chiming in much. When I moved to DC I was making 27K which was a 30% increase over what I was making in Kentucky and lived on it quite comfortably but it was a VERY long time ago. Can’t imagine today paying some of the rents I see on here!

      • Yeah, me either. I was making about $22K a year when I moved to DC, but it was a long time ago. I also bought a 1 bedroom condo in 1996….which I still live in, so obviously my housing costs are way different than someone who moved here a few years ago or are looking now. It’s interesting to think of how much has changed in that time, though, as to what is considered basic monthly living expenses – cell phones, internet service at home, ridiculous cable TV costs (though there are good options to that now)…

    • I live in DC *now* on $45. And sometimes I have to walk to the metro uphill both ways in the snow.

    • I guess that’s how you try to justify to yourself that living in D.C. on a small income isn’t doable — that people who say they did it are all cranky killjoys? It is possible; it’s just a matter of expectations and priorities. (Though I think it’s harder now than it used to be.)

      • it’s hardly possible, because it’s hardly possible to find affordable housing in a safe neighborhood. and the question is “what is a livable salary for a single person in the district these days.” not “how smart are you for buying a house in petworth in 2007?”

        • What do you consider to be a safe neighborhood?
          I think the reason people are citing specific years and numbers is precisely to put things in balance — $35K in 2005 is not the same as $35K now. By the same token, many neighborhoods that felt unsafe or borderline unsafe 10 years ago feel rather different now.

        • HaileUnlikely

          Note that we are dealing with a self-selected population that is able to post on a blog in the middle of their work day. Lots of people with jobs that pay less but still get by fine aren’t on here. Hardly any of my friends make over $55K per year (a few do, but most do not), and all of them get by fine.

  • I’d say $40K to be comfortable with a group house, no/minimal debt, and keeping a budget in check, and about $60K to be dealing with a 1BR/more debt, etc. Obviously, this really depends on your comfort level, and what you’re used to- I started in the area in 2010 making $52K (gross), living in a 1BR in Hyattsville and having a car with no debt, and I was extremely comfortable. I’ve had raises since then that put me at $65K(gross), gave my car to my parents, tried the group house thing and then found what might be the smallest studio in the District to keep costs low. Through all of this, I’ve chucked all my extra into savings, and kept my spending at about $20-25K/year- including rent, which has been between 40-60% of my spending, but not of my income. I am extremely lucky in that I managed to get enough grants to cover college, and find cheap, safe housing near public transit, because those seem to be the biggest factors in affordability for my age group in this city. One thing that has definitely helped me in this regard is admitting up front to friends that I’m cheap as hell, and then inviting people over for potlucks/home cooked meals instead of dinners out. I don’t particularly want to keep up with the Joneses if it means straining my budget, but I’m lucky in that I am more than comfortable making ends meet at my current pay.

  • FWIW, the median income for Millennials in DC is $54,279 (DC CFO).

  • So many of you are nuts. I’ll take home around $55k with OT this year and have been able to save up around $8,000 (not including 401k contributions) since graduating in 2012. Rent right now is $1075 plus utilities, with loans around $250/mo.

    Like others have said — try to limit spending at bars, expensive trips, pack a lunch as much as possible. This city’s stupid expensive, but don’t let anyone guilt you into thinking you need to make $75k to live a good life here.

  • This is like asking “Is DC safe?” It’s so relative! Do you dine out all the time or cook at home? Do you pack your lunch or eat out? Do you have a car? Would you live in Deanwood or Capitol Heights, or is it only Columbia Heights and Logan for you? Do you have student loans? Do you travel abroad often? Do you shop all the time? I think a better question is “how much does it cost to rent a 1-bedroom in a shared house in neighborhood X?” to give you an idea.

  • This thread is bonkers and I don’t want to grow up. I’m one year out of college, and I live pretty comfortably on $43K, saving about $900/month (401k+emergency fund) and paying less than $800 for a room in a group house. I also realize I have relatively tiny student debt, no car, no kids, am allergic to alcohol, bike everywhere, and have little to no intention of buying a house in DC because I’m one of those millennials who are GTFO for grad school in a few years.

  • I think we need to clarify what studen loan payments are. They can range from $200/month up to $1k plus.

    There’s also a question of healthcare costs – copays for visits and meds can add up to hundreds a month if you have a few easily treated chronic conditions (allergies, asthma, etc)- if your job provides insurance, add more for coverage if it doesn’t.
    And much if this depends on how well off you started. Not parents are buying you a condo rich people only. But some folks have appropriate career clothes, established credit or available cosigners, a savings cushion or family safety net to help while looking for work, people to stay with while searching for affordable housing, furniture and housewares from family and friends, networking connections, etc when they get here. And some folks arrive with much less and may have to go into debt while trying to establish themselves.

    So it depends on where you’re coming from – what you prioritize or need and then the choices you make about close in versus long commute, going out vs cooking at home, etc.
    So everyone is not coming from the same place as you. That said, I’d say $40-$60k would make most folks pretty comfortable. Oh and a really easy way to save? Stop drinking so much or such expensive stuff!

    • The point you made of:
      “But some folks have appropriate career clothes, established credit or available cosigners, a savings cushion or family safety net to help while looking for work, people to stay with while searching for affordable housing, furniture and housewares from family and friends, networking connections, etc when they get here.”
      Is a GREAT one. This is something I usually don’t really think about. My parents were able to cosign on my first couple apartments, since my income wasn’t high enough to qualify on my own, and they helped me with furniture/housewares when I first moved here. Those two things alone made it possible for me to move here. I couldn’t have otherwise.

  • I mean, the biggest qualifier is age, I think, and what you’re willing to live with.

    My first job out of college, in 2010, made $35k, but I lived in a Crystal City group house for $650/month, scoured Clarendon bars for cheap specials (I still find Whitlow’s mugs in storage boxes), stayed on the parental health insurance, and saved only 401k contributions. But I never couldn’t go to bars, never couldn’t eat lunch out, never had to really limit myself in terms of lifestyle. I loved life.

    Promotion got me to mid-40s, next job paid mid-50s. Still lived in the same group house, but began to save and go to nicer bars, sit-down restaurants, travel a bit, and the occasional play (the natural progression of entering your mid-20s). Job I started last month pays mid-60s, and I do freelance on the side to cover grad school tuition. Finally, at 26, moved into a nice but fairly-priced studio on the edge of Columbia Heights. And I’m very, very happy with the way things are, at $65k.

    Honestly, you make it work. I had a perfect lifestyle in DC at 22 making $35k, and I have a perfect lifestyle now. It’s all about perspective.

  • I am 26, and have probably averaged about $47k a year since I started work. I have 25k in a savings account and 25k in retirement (about $6k was employer contributions, currently nearing the end of a 2 year waiting period at my new employer). So consistently saving about $10k a year (although now I am in grad school…so not saving much of anything, gulp) It is certainly comfortable and I have been able to save. You do start to feel the tug of “what if I were just making more?!” because it seems like everyone in my social group seems to be going out to nice dinners or whatever.But after reading this, maybe a lot of those people are just saving nothing. You think, I am only young once, am I wasting it? There definitely is a social pressure.

    I have in my mind that 60k a year for both my partner and I (so $120k combined) would be the entry to a pretty bougie DC lifestyle, where we could live in a close in walkable neighborhood and eat out, travel, and still save. So certainly above “livable”

    My biggest secrets are, no student loans (although my partner pays $500, so to be equitable this effects my budget in ways) and rarely eating out. I really enjoy cooking, so this isn’t a huge sacrifice for me.

    • Those in your social group may not be saving anything, and also could be in massive credit card debt. Interesting that the issue of cc debt hasn’t come up much in this thread (what I’ve read of it).

  • I didn’t feel truly comfortable until I surpassed $80K. That was the sum that allowed me to both live and plan. Build wealth, invest, etc.

  • When I moved here two years ago, I was bringing home about $2800 a month ($33k/yr take home pay). That covered rent ($1000 with a roommate), groceries at Whole Foods, eating out a few days a week, and brunch/day drinking/bars every weekend. I didn’t have student loans.

    Now, I’m in grad school and with loans and working part time, bringing home about $1700 a month. That leaves about $450 after rent and bills- it’s painful. However, it HAS given me perspective on what is and isn’t livable. I don’t get to have the typical DC life, but I have a nice apartment, a dog, and I’m not starving. It takes a lot of budgeting and sacrifices, but it’s possible to live here, comfortably, on $20k a year.

  • I have to agree with all the people on here who say it’s relative. When I was 21 years old and fresh out of college, I lived on about $32k a year and I managed pretty well. As I’ve gotten older, though, things that I just didn’t even think about at 21 have come into my budget – I make pretty decent contributions to my retirement account now, I have life insurance, my student loans are substantially larger since now I have a grad degree, and now I live by myself – something that would have been a ridiculous luxury at 21, but any time after 30 seems kinda required. I’m also not willing to take some of the risks I did at 21, and that includes only being willing to live in a neighborhood I feel safe in now – at 21, I was very willing to be an “urban pioneer” and live somewhere that was more iffy.
    The other key difference is “incidental” and “occasional” expenses. When I was younger I was happy to limp along with an old laptop, a twenty year old car, a cheapo flip phone, etc. Well, now I need a smartphone, a functional newer laptop, and a more reliable newer car all for work, but none of which my employer buys for me. Can’t afford health insurance at 21? No problem! Skip it! You’re invincible anyway! At 30, though, you have to have, and pay, for that. Well, all those things cost money. As an adult, I have to handle all of those expenses by myself. At 21, I would usually either go without something or ask mom and dad to bail me out when I needed a $500 auto repair or had some other unexpected (but inevitable) large, one-time expense.
    My point is, things that at 21 seem like incredible luxuries are expected as basics at 31 and not even optional at 41. A 21 year old can bring a date home to their $800 a month group house in Mount Pleasant and the early-20-something date never thinks anything of it. Someone in their 30s who has to say “keep it down or you’ll wake up my roommates!”, though, doesn’t get a lot of return dates. A 21 year old who can’t afford to fix their car just takes the train. A 41 year old who calls their boss or worse, a client, and says “my 25 year old Ford Tempo won’t start! I can’t come get you after all! Can you just take the bus to me?” has a much bigger problem, especially if driving people back and forth is an expected part of their job. They are expected to own something more reliable.

    • If I’m reading this correctly, you think anyone’s number should be adjusted for age a tad… that seems totally reasonable.

    • +100000000000000000 -The End-

    • Uhhh I feel like anyone who won’t go on a date with someone again just because they have a roommate is kind of judgmental.. DC is expensive, some people like to allocate their funds towards other things, like actually going out somewhere good for their dates. Also, believe it or not some people actually like having roommates.

      I guess if you’re living in a huge group house with like 6 people and you’re over 30 that’s a little unusual, but still…that’s way harsh.

      • There’s a lot of crappy, superficial people in DC. And a lot of people in DC who come from means.

        • I’m willing to take on the moniker of crappy and superficial. In my experiences, ppl living in the large grouphouses are financially insecure in that they aren’t saving, etc. Someone could certainly live well below their means, but I haven’t met one yet…this is not to say someone living alone is not more cash strapped (I’ve seen that too). Besides financial its overall comfort. I want to be able to visit my gf home and her mine, and I find that less comfortable when they’re are a bunch of ppl living there. Bathroom to ppl ratio is also likely off.
          I have no issue with roommates generally nor would I turn down a date for that reason, but it certainly makes me question moving into something meaningful if you’re over 30 living 5 other ppl.

      • I’ll own what I said. If you’re over 30 and you still live with your parents, or you still live in a group house, or you have roommates for pretty much any reason other than you stretched to buy your house and have a housemate to help keep your mortgage costs down, you’re undateable. People over 30 should be able to have sex in their own homes in any room they please without having to lock the bedroom door or consider noise that can be heard by other people inside the apartment.
        It’s fine to deal with your partner’s roommate(s) while you’re having sex on a twin bed in their dorm room at 19 years old, but when you’re 30+, you need a big boy / big girl queen size bed and a private residence to put it in if you want someone to have sex with you. I wouldn’t decline a date with someone who was otherwise great purely because they had roommates, but it is a serious strike against that person.

        • Man, I guess it’s just a miracle I somehow get laid even though I have a queen bed in a house that two other people just happen to live in! .I’m seriously impressed with myself. Although, I’m not quite 30 yet so I guess I only have a couple more years until I’m completely undateable…

        • You obviously have a right to live as you see fit, but don’t pretend that it’s about anything other than status. It’s very short-sighted as well. I drive a beater car and am in the process of renting out a room in the house that I own. HHI is in the 95th percentile for D.C. Would definitely not consider dating someone like you (were I single) because you’re probably a spendthrift.

    • Shaw 11:58
      IMO the most down to earth and common sense post on this thread. Well done.

  • group house – 40-45k is doable.
    share with one roommate – 60k
    studio/own place – 70-75k.

  • During my first go-around in DC a decade or so ago, my wife and I lived comfortably on my $60k salary and her internship stipend. I would think $60k would still go fairly far, as we spend less than that combined, putting the remainder of our salaries into savings. We now have a nice 2BR in far NW, a paid off car that we never drive, and neither of us has student loans (I never did, as I went to a very cheap state school). We do go out from time to time, but likely spend less than $100 per month on entertainment.

  • I live on about $24k after taxes. I pay about $800 for rent (grouphouse), $100 for utilities, and the rest of the $1100 goes towards food, transportation and other expenses. Health insurance is covered by my insurance. I lead a pretty good life (hang out with friends about three times a week), live next to a downtown Metro stop, and don’t feel like I’m scrimping.

    FWIW: I don’t have student debt, and am not counting any type of savings, 401(k) contributions etc.

    I see my lifestyle as more than livable. I could actually cut down some discretionary expenses and save more. So, to me, $30k net would be quite generous– which would probably be about $40k before taxes.

    My answer is $40k as more than livable, and enough to begin building about $5k-8k of wealth/year.

  • I’m in my late 20s and make about $45K a couple of years into a professional media job, but I’m hopeful for a raise or promotion in the near future to give me a boost. And I think I’m doing OK. I’m not able to contribute quite as much to my 401(K) as I’d like, but all of my needs are met: I can go out where and when I want, I can travel (including internationally), I can pay my loan installments, I can usually buy new clothes or new tech if I want/need them and I can pay rent and utilities. I don’t feel like I’m being squeezed, although some months are tighter than others. I think the trick is that I’m living with two roommates, but I’m underpaying on what I mathematically “can” pay. I like my roommates and they give me a pretty much built-in social life. It also helps that my student loans aren’t nearly as bad as other people’s. I can actually afford to pay more in rent than a friend who’s a lawyer, even though he out-earns me by a mile. It just depends on what you’re willing and able to do without and what you absolutely need. I could never afford my own 1B in the building we’re in now, but when we split everything into thirds, it’s very affordable and I still have my own bathroom and gym access in the building.

    I’d like to earn about $60K to be able to sock away more money for later, but my salary now doesn’t keep me from most things.

  • I’m impressed with most people on this string… most of you guys are great financial managers and savers and investors! I was a financial wreck when i moved back from Africa at age 27 from Peace Corps ….lived strapped at probably 37K to 40K for several years and still could not pay rent on time….still felt strapped at 50K in my early thirties and had a time covering the credit card and paying rent….. got married and briefly felt comfortable at 65K in my mid thirties…. but little to no savings. Had a kid and bought a house at age 38 could hardly pay the childcare costs and say nothing about savings at 70K with my wife making 80K. Had to rent the basement (not a separate apt) to make the mortgage. Now finally at age 44 I”m comfortable at 105K ….but i live in Africa again and i rent my place in Washington. Not really looking forward to getting back on that financial treadmill i might add.

    • It really is as simple as keeping a budget. Most people here saying that you need $80k to live in D.C. probably do not realize how much they spend on things that are adding very little to their lives.
      I make enough now that I probably don’t *need* to budget, but I still do. Why piss away that extra money when you could use it to invest and thereby get off of the “treadmill” much sooner? Plus, there are no guarantees in life – lots of people find themselves out of work at 50 and it’s harder to get a job at that point, anti-discrimination laws notwithstanding.

      • Very smart and responsible…i wasn’t so disciplined and i guess i probably wasted a ton of money on unnecessary things…

  • valentina

    80K+ I make $60K and it is a struggle. If you don’t have student loans and have a roommate then I’m pretty sure you can contribute huge amounts to your 401K and save, travel ,etc. Unfortunately, that is not the case for most people. Count yourself lucky.

    • So you have loans but no roommate? Your loan payments could be high, but even after taxes and with a 1k/monthly loan payment you’d have about 2500/left over per month. I’m trying to figure out where are all the money goes for ppl making above the median who need more to make it “liveable”. I’m fascinated.

      • 2500 left over…..for 1200 minimum in rent or mortgage…..and then probably 600 or 700 in food costs…if you don’t eat out much….then your phone, your internet, your transport to work (unless you bike)…..its no mystery where it all goes.

        • $600-700 a month for food for ONE person?? For real? I feed a family of four for much less. What are you eating that you would need this much??

          • This does seem like a high amount for 1 person to me, but it also amazes me that you can feed a family for less than that. Do you go to Costco? Walmart? Other “cheaper” chains like H Mart out in the ‘burbs? I can’t get to those places, so I’m stuck shopping at Safeway and Whole Foods near my apartment, although I manage to clock in under this most months.

          • well, it’s been along time since it’s been one person….but let’s seee that is $150 to $175 per week….. that’s one Whole Foods trip at $100 per week (easy) and a weekend meal or two out ….geeez beers cost 6 bucks each now….. a dinner at $35 easy….. …i don’t see how you get by on less frankly unless you eat Mac And Cheese….and pack your lunch for work everyday. Which are good ideas nonetheless…

          • Ah, see, I don’t drink anymore because its too expensive. And I eat a lot of asperagus (because it’s lightweight by the pound), potatoes and skirt steak which is cheap, and yes… mac & cheese.

          • Also if this hypothetical person is living in a group house their kitchen is probably too gross, or too often in use by someone else, to use regularly to prepare inexpensive meals from scratch.

          • Being frugal doesn’t mean just being cheap. Value matters too, and when it comes to food its impact on your health is enormous. If you are able to feed a family of four a balanced, quality diet on $700 a month, that’s truly impressive. Otherwise…

      • valentina

        My rent is $1482, then I have my regular monthly bills and incidentals.

  • Hah hah! You guys are living the sweet life. I live in 18k/year after taxes. I have a great deal on rent (split a studio with my boyfriend) and don’t have any student loan debt, which helps enormously. But still, I would kill for even $30k – that seems like so much money to me.

  • Group house and dinner, or one-bedroom and not going out. It’s all about choices. But what you’re talking about – dinner or drinks a few nights a week is more than “livable”. That can become extravagant. But living comfortably, by yourself, I’d say at least 50K

  • I make $35/yr and live in adams morgan. Go out 3-4 times a week. No savings but most of my friends make well over what I do. I’m very fortunate that I live in an apartment that is incredibly affordable for the area. Live alone. Cook dinner and make lunch about 3-4 days/week. It all depends on if you can find a spot to live that has a really good rent deal.

  • $30K is the bare minimum. I recently finished our budget and determined my wife and I spend about $35K total per year, including an insane mortgage payment on a two bedroom condo and a pretty ridiculous bar/restaurant habit. Our combined annual income is $190K, and we save about 70% of our take home pay.

    I’ve calculated that we could easily get by on 1/3 of our income, or about $60K per year between the two of us.

    • That’s some impressive budgeting. I’d guess that your condo payment is less outrageous than you think, since my partner and I are spending $25k a year in rent alone. We do manage to save 1/4-1/3 of our take-home, though. Which is light years ahead of where we each were in the never-ending-brunch-and-happy-hours stage of life.

    • I think we need some numbers for this, chief among them what is your take home pay and what is included in that? Assuming your health insurance is deducted from your take home pay, let’s crunch the numbers: you make 190k combined. Assume 35% in federal and DC taxes, medicare, social security, and health insurance is withheld. That leaves you with $123,500 in take-home pay, or roughly 10,300 per month. You’re saving $7000 per month? That leaves you $3000 for your “insane mortgage payment” and “ridiculous restaurant/bar habit,” plus all of life’s other incidentals – transportation, groceries, sundries, cell phones, TV, utilities, condo fee, etc.? As the pp has said, either your definition of “insane” and “ridiculous” are wildly different than others, or there’s much more to this story.
      I’m not saying you can’t live in $35,000 – but you can’t do it with a high mortgage payment and restaurant/bar tab.

  • currently making under 20,000 yearly, and school loans are paid off. Considering the fact that I have many friends in the restaurant industry and rarely pay for food in cash,I find life in the city to be very easy and simple even with 2 dogs. Learning to differentiate between want and need is crucial .

  • I’m 26 years old, single, and living three blocks from the U St metro in a large two-bedroom apartment. I make $55K, max out my IRA, save about $1K a month, and I feel totally comfortable. I bring lunch everyday. I don’t have a ton of luxuries, but I travel often.

  • I moved to DC in August 2014 to start a new job where I make $47k/year and I’ve saved about 10,000 dollars since moving here. I do not feel as though my social life is lacking at all and my (above ground) apartment is renovated and has all the basic amenities. I live in Noma.

  • Can we extend this to what is comfortable for a married couple with a toddler tomorrow? I would be very curious.

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